Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Israel must secure a deal with the Obama administration to pull the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, in order to keep the upper hand in the Middle East peace process.
“There are two options,” Barak told Army Radio. “Either we reach understandings with the Americans to find a way to force the Palestinians to sit around the negotiating table, or the Palestinians and the Arab world will reach understanding with the Americans and it will be us eating frogs.”
“The fact that the Americans are willing to put guarantees on the table is a very serious achievement for the prime minister,” Barak told Army Radio on Sunday, adding that the benefits of the American offer outweigh any internal political considerations.
“We wanted 40 planes, but due to [defense] budget cuts, we could only afford 20, at a price of three billion shekels,” Barak said. “The Americans are now offering to complete the deal in return for a 90-day freeze. Furthermore, if we reach an agreement they are offering us a deal six or seven times larger.”
Meanwhile, an unnamed diplomat told The Associated Press on Monday that Israel would be allowed to complete construction of hundreds of homes in West Bank settlements under the new U.S.-proposed settlement moratorium.
That original moratorium, which expired in September, did not apply to some 3,000 apartments already under construction. The diplomat says the new three-month slowdown, if approved, would also not apply to those homes.